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MANILA, Philippines - The saga of the house built by the relatives of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in Forbes Park in Makati in the 1960s is coming to an end.
The Makati sheriff will serve an ultimatum for the family of businessman Herman Montenegro to vacate their sprawling house in North Forbes anytime this week. Arroyo and Montenegro's wife, Charito, are second cousins.
The ultimatum is meant to enforce the deed of sale in October last year between Chinese businessman Emilio Tiu of Solid Shipping Lines and the Bank of Philippine Islands which foreclosed the Montenegro property as a result of the family's failure to settle its debts to the Ayala-owned bank of up to P135.8 million last year. [SEE RELATED STORY: Mikey Arroyo's in-laws fall into hard times, lose mansion in Forbes Park]
Tiu acquired the property for P105 million through an auction ordered and supervised by a Makati regional court on October 18, 2011.
It is a two-storey mansion built by Montenegro on a 1,750-hectare lot at No. 132 Cambridge Circle, North Forbes late into the 1960s. It is a tastefully decorated mansion that speaks well of the low-key, low-profile family, according to a neighbor.
First served an eviction notice in June, the Montenegros managed to buy time when a new lawyer made an emotional appeal that the mansion had been occupied not by any of Montenegro's firms, but by his 46-year-old son Greg, supposedly the head of a family.
However, the court later learned that the younger Montenegro has been estranged from his wife, a former actress, and that their child has been in her custody for the longest time.
Another Montenegro child, Angela, is married to Ang Galing partylist Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's eldest son. Angela's mother and Mikey's father both come from the landed Arroyo clans, who own vast sugar plantations in Negros Occidental. Mikey and Angela got married during the Arroyo presidency.
Neither sweat nor tears
Montenegro's new lawyer failed to contradict documents that the property had been listed under Montenegro's firms, which used the property as a collateral when he first secured a P60- million loan in 1999. The loan was restructured and renewed to P86.9 million, listing his companies Fujica Pacific Inc. and Titan Megabags as co-borrowers. A total of P24.5 million was credited to Fujica in March 2005 and P62.4 million to Titan, as of September 2005.
A source at the Office of the Makati Sheriff said the latter was expecting to enforce the ultimatum with neither sweat nor tears as it was banking on the cooperation of the Montenegros -- unlike the tension-filled experience it encountered when it enforced last July a similar notice on the erstwhile house of businesswoman Edna Camcam, known girlfriend of the late Gen. Fabian Ver, the longest-serving chief of staff of former president Ferdinand Marcos.
Camcam's property is located a few meters away from the Montenegro property, also on Cambridge Circle. The Makati sheriff, along with some barangay officials, had brought some 40 guards to enforce the notice, according to a Camcam supporter, but Camcam showed up with more, according to a Makati employee.
Camcam "lost the property" supposedly because of loan payment defaults to the United Coconut Planters Bank, according to some legal documents.
But the Camcams felt betrayed as the other party to the property is Dr. Daniel Vasquez, once a very close family friend and compadre; the loan defaults, she would later tell a friend, were the results of years living a life on the run after the Edsa Revolution in February 1986. When they left the country, Edna supposedly entrusted the house to him, but Vasquez allegedly bought and transferred the titles under his name without her knowledge.
Edna and family still live at the house in Cambridge, awaiting the court's final verdict.
Another Montenegro property up for auction
Another Montenegro property in Misamis Oriental is also up for auction for the same loan default. Herman Montenegro and his wife live in another house, in Dasmariñas Village, also in Makati, according to a friend.
Montenegro and Charito built the house after their wedding in 1965. Montenegro made his fortune from real estate, but his empire grew in 1966 after he diversified into other businesses - from cargo shipping services to floor tiles to bulk-container bags to cutflowers.
"They are a well-bred, well-educated couple who raised well-bred and well-educated children," a family friend said. "They were not ostentatious. It was very unfortunate that business went so bad. Nobody knew that when things would end, they would end in tears."